Richard Dawkins claims that God is a Cosmic Tyrant because He commanded the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. 1 Others argue that the God of the Old Testament is not the God of the New Testament.
While we discuss the issue it is important to keep a specific aspect of the Bible in mind. The Scriptures tell us to seek God. Why? Because, ‘God reveals Himself in His word, as He does in His works. In both we see a self-revealing, self-concealing God, who makes Himself known only to those who earnestly seek Him.’ 2 Let’s see how it applies to Jerusalem and the Jebusites:
# The Jerusalem case
We can summarise the conquest of Canaan as follows, ‘So Joshua subdued the whole region…. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed.’ 2 Yet when we carefully read the Scriptures, it didn’t happen that fast. For example,
- The king of the Jebusites joined Jabin (with other kings) and attacked the Israelite army. Joshua defeated them. The Israelites put Jerusalem to the sword and totally destroyed the people. 3
- So the king of Jerusalem was conquered. 4
- Despite the fact that the ‘whole region was subdued,’ the tribe of Judah still had to take in more than 109 towns and villages that were part of their inheritance. 5
- Later it says that Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. 6 That is after the verse that said Jerusalem was conquered. 7
- Judges 1:8 tells us, ‘The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set in on fire.’ That was after it was conquered by Joshua and his men.
- However, many years later king David fought to conquer the Jebusites living in Jerusalem. 8
# The question is, how does that work?
Careful investigation gives the answer.
- The Canaanites knew that Joshua and his army were on their way. Joshua sent spies to inspect Jericho, the first city they conquered in Canaan. There Rahab hid the spies and told them, ‘I know that the Lord has given this land to you, and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.’
- The Canaanites also knew the history of how God helped his people, because Rahab recited the great acts of God when He delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. 8
- So it is logical that the Canaanite women, children and elderly fled before the victorious Israelite army. Later on they probably return to their city, rebuilt it if it was necessary, and lived there again.
- The text does not mention that all the towns and villages were destroyed and their inhabitants killed. It only mentions that some of the main cities were conquered.
- After the three main campaigns under Joshua, each individual tribe received its inheritance. From there it had to secure that inheritance for itself. Scripture explains, “After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?’” 9
When you read Scripture carefully, you will not jump to conclusions that are false. That is what Richard Dawkins fails to do. We, who love the Lord, need not follow his example.
- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Bantam Press, 2006, p 36
- J Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, Whitaker House, 1992, p 15. Joshua 10:40
- Joshua 11:12-13
- Joshua 12:10
- Joshua 15:20-62
- Joshua 15:63
- Joshua 11:12
- 2 Samuel 5:6-9
- Joshua 2:8-11
- Judges 1:1